Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Not Sure"

I've been spending some time going through the latest AIF Owners Report. Lots and lots of data, some good, some not so good for timeshare developers.

However, one piece of data caught my eye and totally blew me away. The question was "Which of the following best describes your understanding of the type of interest you obtained with this timeshare?' Respondents had to choose between "right to use", "deeded or fee simple", "interest in a trust', "other" and "not sure/don't know."

I was expecting a very low percentage of respondents to say "not sure/don't know." Would you believe 17% of week based timeshare owners and 21% of point based timeshare owners weren't sure of what they owned? On average that's 19% or almost a full 1 our of 5 owners weren't sure what type of ownership they had.

As you know, I usually blast the timeshare industry for not properly educating owners and prospective owners. For this, I have to place the blame FULLY on the owner. Why oh why, would anyone pay an average price of $20,000 for a timeshare and NOT understand what type of ownership they have?

Not sure indeed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Simple Solution

Maybe I've been putting too much thought into how to "fix" the timeshare industry. Simple is good. Here is my new "fix":

Make every resort developer, resort owner and Director of Sales attend a timeshare presentation at another resort as "Mr. or Ms. Average Consumer."

Make every high ranking exchange company employee get on the phone and try to make an exchange.

Make every Director of Marketing (as they call it) attempt to check-in at a resort only to be sent to a few other desks in an attempt to get them in for a "resort update."

The problem is simple...the vast majority of the people in the industry who have the power to change it, don't own the product or certainly don't have to put up with the issues that the consumer does. Do you think that they have to try to exchange when they want a week in Hawaii? Of course not. And when they check-in, they're listed as "VIP" so that they bypass the entire "resort overview" crap. And of course they never have to sit through a 3-hour high pressure sales presentation.

See, the problem is simple...and so is the solution. Again, the first big-shot who actually DOES any of this and truly puts themselves in the consumers' shoes will immediately see the need for a change. And that change will gain them HUGE amounts of great PR and consumer loyalty.

Who is up for this change?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Be Consistent and Be Transparent

This is an excerpt of a short training piece I just filmed for the Kissimmee Chamber of Commerce.

Be consistent in all of your communications. If you have a company slogan, be sure that it is used in written or e-mail communications. If you have a website, and I certainly hope that in 2010 you do, your written communications should always include the site. The same holds true for business cards...slogans, logos and website should all be there along with personal contact information.

While on the subject of e-mail, be certain that every single employee has a standard, consistent signature block and that no outside links are included.

Being transparent means that you hide nothing. If your pool is going to be closed for a week for repairs, you want to let everyone know before they check in. If there is construction at the restuarant, tell people.

Many times, timeshare properties don't fully disclose that the guest is required to attend and complete a timeshare sales presentation. If this sales presentation is going to be 90 minutes to 2 hours, don't refer to it as a "45 minute meeting so that we can get your input."

The Internet has made information junkies out of everyone. You can hide your head in the sand, but the truth is that your property, your resort, your timeshare, your hotel is now in competition with everyone. You are all competing for consumers' hard earned dollars. If your competitors are consistent and transparent and you aren't, who do you think consumers will flock to?

Be consistant, be transparent and the market will reward you for it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Just Because It's On A Site, Doesn't Mean It's True

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It allows for rapid exchange of ideas and thoughts.

It also means that everyone with a connection can post just about anything they want.

Consider this tidbit which I came across this morning while doing a search for 'timeshare' on Twitter:

Through the use of point systems, you can get freebies and incentives thazt include gift vouchers, coupons, meals, and tours.

In what universe? Love the typo by the way!

Look, just because someone put up a website for $99 doesn't mean that all the content on there is useful, interesting or should be taken to heart. Especially when the website is littered with ads from the "wonderful" companies that claim to be able to sell your timeshare for you.

Get the real information...ask questions...don't settle. Be educated.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Has Anyone Had A Good Experience With A Vacation Club?

Vacation clubs...I've never met one that I was a fan of.

Many timeshares are now selling "vacation clubs" in lieu of timeshares, which is sufficient for a separate blog post. However, I'm interested in the actual value and use of these clubs.

They usually involve a price of several thousand dollars...I've seen them anywhere from $1,999 to $14,999 (!) and are full of low cost vacation "strategies" and deals.

My first issue with these clubs is that they use timeshare accommodations. This presents an issue not only to timeshare owners...which inventory are these clubs using and to the vacation club members as well...what happens when the inventory runs out?

My second issue is with the so-called "deals" that these clubs promise. I doubt that these "deals" aren't available to the general public without the high vacation club membership price attached. You want discounted cruises? There are a ton of sites that you can access without being a member of anything. Ditto...and I would bet that any discounts you can obtain through these memberships are restrictive in terms of what airline, how many stops, number of seats, etc.

The travel industry, with the exception of the timeshare industry, has become somewhat transparant over the past few years. I remain a skeptic of these vacation clubs and invite readers to agree or disagree.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Few Words On Reselling Timeshare, Semantics and The Word Free

I'll start by saying this...I have not gone soft. I have not sold out. I have not lost my mind.

I do however, want to shed some light on the whole business of timeshare resales, listing fees, advertising fees and free.

First thing first...there is no such thing as "free", something I've been saying for years and made a point about in my first book.

Secondly, if a consumer wants to sell their timeshare that they no longer use/want/know how to use, etc., let's look at their options:

* advertise in their local newspaper
* advertise on a general Internet site (Craig's List, eBay, etc.)
* advertise in a timeshare publication
* advertise on a timeshare releated Internet site
* advertise through a general real estate agent (assuming one will take it)

All of those, with the exception of Craig's List which I believe is free, will charge the consumer something for advertising. In the case of a general real estate agent, again, assuming you can find one that understands how to advertise timeshare, they will charge you a commission after the timeshare is sold.

Which would you rather advertise your timeshare on...a timeshare specific site or a general site? If you understand advertising and want the most bang for your buck, you'd choose the timeshare specific site. And you'd want a timeshare specific site that can verify that they have thousands of unique visitors a day and can back up the fact that they in fact sell a large percentage of the timeshares that they have listed.

Consumers need to make a value you want to spend $20.00 to become a member of a site or orgaization and then have the ability "list" your timeshare for no additional fee, or do you want to spend $300 or $400 to "list" your timeshare on another site?

I'm not saying one is better than the other...that is for each consumer to decide for themselves. Assuming that neither option guarantees the sale of your timeshare, in which case I would run for the hills, you're paying money for something.

I am NOT endorsing any company here and I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not saying that timeshare advertising companies are the same as those horrible "postcard" companies that I think are among some of the worst offenders in the entire timeshare related industry.

It's your timeshare, it's your money...ask questions, demand answers, ask for proof of reliability, sales, BBB standing, etc. Be safe, be smart.

And happy vacationning!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thanks To The UCF Students

Just a quick "thanks" to the UCF students that I had the pleasure of speaking with this afternoon.

Did me a world of good to hear that some of them wanted to know if I taught anymore classes because they thought I was great.

I'll be posting some of their questions, which are always enlightening, later on this week. Great questions which bring up some really interesting aspects of the timeshare industry.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Another Timeshare "Reseller" Gets Their Due

Timeshare Relief, Inc. based in Torrance, California has been hit with more than $91,000 in consumer refunds AND a $50,000 fine to the State of Vermont.

It seems that the Vermont Attorney General is going after the so-called "postcard companies" with a vengence, as this is the 2nd such finding in less than a few months.

Among the findings was that Timeshare Relief, Inc. engaged in "deceptive trade practice" with the use of their financial benefits worksheet that led people to believe that they might be eligible for a tax deduction against any payment to the company.

Having sat through one of these "presentations" I can tell you that I almost laughed out loud when my "consultant" started in with the tax deductions, capital loss forms, computations of interest, etc.

If it has been said once it has been said a thousand times, but bears not pay anyone an upfront fee to list or sell your timeshare for you, especially if they contact you first.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Power of Bad Advertising and Spam and a Lesson To Be Learned

We've all gotten hit with spam for foreign watches, foreign prescription pills and the like. I'd bet that if you were ever in the mood to purchase a foreign watch or have the need to get some prescription pills, these spammers would be the very last place you would turn to. Why? Because of their repeated, annoying messages. In this case, unwanted, untargetted repeated, annoying messages. It is if someone had only heard the words "reach" and "frequency" in a first semester marketing class and disregarded all the rest of the important information.

It is much the same way with these timeshare resale companies that have their automated calls bother you at home, or the way those same companies spend untold thousands of dollars sending you glossy four-color brochures saying all sorts of bad things about timeshare and telling you that they can rid you of maintenance fees forever. I would bet that if anyone were ever in the market to sell a timeshare, these companies would be the last place they would turn to.

Twitter is no better. Companies send "tweet" after "tweet"...sometimes 20 or more in a single hour with their offer.

Not only do these companies and organizations fail to understand what true advertising/marketing/social media is about, they build up far more ill will by being the last place consumers would ever turn to.

Hmmm, sounds suspiciously like the mini-vac companies constantly saying that "you've won a trip to Central Florida..." And the trend among timeshare buyers is what? Oh yes, the resale market where they let people buy a timeshare...imagine that.